WSB to collaborate with the Northwest’s biggest news organization

August 26, 2009 at 10:59 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle online | 25 Comments

Late August is supposed to be a slow time, with summer ebbing, extra time to enjoy the sun. But somehow it always manages to be an exciting time here at WSB HQ. Almost exactly two years ago, your support helped plant the seeds of WSB’s transformation into a business, with seed money raised during our first and only Pledge Day. Today, we’re thrilled to announce our participation in a new journalistic collaboration involving our region’s largest news organization as well as three of our fellow independent, neighborhood-based online news publishers.


Here’s the announcement just sent out by the Seattle Times. No, this isn’t a purchase, an investment, or anything else formal. The Knight Foundation, which has been working hard to help navigate the choppy waters of the transformation of the news world, is leading and funding a groundbreaking experiment involving five regional/citywide news organizations nationwide – including the Times – to collaborate journalistically with small, independent news organizations like ours over the next year, and to figure out if the collaboration can result in even better coverage for the people they serve.

Along with us here at WSB (and partner site White Center Now), the Times’ collaborators here in the Northwest include the publishers of My Ballard, Capitol Hill Seattle, and the Rainier Valley Post.

Collaboration is HUGE with us here – it’s the partnership we have with you. So much of what appears here starts with you – your e-mail, phone calls, questions, ideas, photos, tweets, FB notes, postal mail, and in-person conversations.

The Times has been showcasing some of our work for a while now (such as the reservoir-leaks story) and that’s what’s really different about this – instead of taking the tack some corporate media organizations have taken, trying to imitate neighborhood-based news organizations’ grass-roots coverage, it’s not creating new West Seattle, or Ballard, or Capitol Hill, or Rainier Valley pages/subsites – it will contextually showcase (link to) the best work of WSB and the other participants, and if the Times has a story we think you need to know about, we’ll do the same. Other possibilities, for starters: As a large organization, it also has databases and other information that we may be able to access in unique ways to get you better coverage. The rest – literally, the partners, including the Times, will be making it up as we go along, and that’s the point. The world of journalism is changing dramatically and there’s no way to know what’s around the corner till we get there.

Media partnerships are not a new concept – in my years of local TV, I was involved with more than a few. But official partnerships between new and old media are still relatively rare. This is truly an experiment, as WSB itself is, in a way – one that we thank you for supporting, as our continued growth has made it possible for us to bring you more and more coverage (with the help of other veteran journalists and photographers – and by the way, any in West Seattle/White Center who want to join the team, there’s room for more – and we pay! – let us know!).

– Tracy Record, WSB editor/co-publisher

25 Comments

  1. Congratulations! Although I think the Seattle Times is getting the better end of this deal from the local blogs. Between using neighborhood blog coverage and pulling in articles direct lifted from Slate and AP – most of the true “breaking” news seems to be happening right here.

    Comment by glendafrench — 11:06 am August 26, 2009 #

  2. Congratulations Tracy and Patrick! You have not only earned this, but have been on the cutting edge of how we will all receive our news.

    Comment by Teri — 11:07 am August 26, 2009 #

  3. I agree with Glenda about the Times getting the best deal–you guys are amazing. Just don’t wear yourselves out, we need you to stick around for a long, long time! I not only appreciate reading your material several times a day, but I am always in awe of your fast replies to any emails I have ever sent you. Congrats and keep up the great work!

    Comment by Sandy Adams — 11:30 am August 26, 2009 #

  4. This is fantastic! Congratulations WSB.

    Comment by Anna — 12:22 pm August 26, 2009 #

  5. Wow! Congratulations!

    .

    I third that the Times is getting the better deal on this! :cool:

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 12:27 pm August 26, 2009 #

  6. Congratulations WSB! We “lived” in West Seattle for a couple months last winter. Our son/daughter-in-law live there and we rented an apartment close-by. Our real home is in Iowa. While in West Seattle, we read the blog to stay informed about activities and events. Since returning to Iowa, the WSB is on my Favorites list and I read it at least daily. Love to read about things/places with which we are now familiar. This is a great site! Sue

    Comment by Sue — 12:37 pm August 26, 2009 #

  7. Wow! That’s a great idea on their part! Congratulations — you certainly deserve it!

    And, thank you for dropping by the CityDog Cover Dog Model Search and pet food drive at West Seattle Thriftway on 8/16. We’ll be announcing the winning dog soon, so stay tuned!

    Brandie Ahlgren, founder
    CityDog Magazine

    Comment by Brandie — 12:41 pm August 26, 2009 #

  8. You deserve it WSB, congratulations!

    Comment by wseye — 12:46 pm August 26, 2009 #

  9. Pretty soon it’ll be The LA and NY Times hooking up with Team WSB, cuz if Iowa is reading you, well, you have arrived! ;).

    Comment by d — 12:59 pm August 26, 2009 #

  10. Congrats to the best neighborhood blog around.

    Comment by Christy — 1:11 pm August 26, 2009 #

  11. Good on you, WSB! I like the Seattle Times but I LOVE WSB and check in from work several times a day. Please don’t get absorbed into any pre-conceived Times idea of how this should work, Tracy and Patrick. You guys blazed the path to becoming the most relevant news publisher in Seattle — heck, in Washington if not the Pacific NW! — and the Times has much to learn from you. Very best and most sincere congratulations, and please, for all our sakes, keep up the good work!

    Comment by Dailycommuter — 1:51 pm August 26, 2009 #

  12. Agreed, the West Seattle Blog is one of the best news outfits in the state, besting the Times and the PI and pretty much all the other localized ‘hood blogs out there that I’ve seen. This site is great, the level of effort and dedication shows on a regular basis. Keep up the good work, and do not let the Times or any of the other “partners” in the “experiment” talk you into any hairbrained schemes that would diminish the stand-alone greatness this site already has built on its own

    Comment by 37Ray — 3:49 pm August 26, 2009 #

  13. 37 and company, I want to assure you there are no harebrained schemes in the works. You’re not even going to suddenly see a box of “Featured Partner Headlines” in the sidebar.
    .
    The whole point of this is contextual … and we will always be disclosing anything related to the partnership, as we do with ads by putting (WSB sponsor) behind any mention of an advertiser (even if it’s something as simple as an events calendar entry) – when we mention the Times, it’ll be (WSB partner). And if we get a photo or data or some kind of raw information from them, aside from a link to something they already have processed into a feature on their site, it will be credited as such.
    .
    Regarding the other sites that are involved, we have long known their operators personally and been something of an informal mutual support and inspiration group when needed … now more than ever it’s important for us dedicated indies to support each other. We have been discussing other ways to do that separate from this.
    .
    Oh, and we wouldn’t have signed on (not that we signed anything!) if the others involved weren’t sites we admire and respect – we all made that clear when these conversations started. If you have friends/relatives/co-workers in those other parts of the city, please be sure they know about those sites!
    .
    p.s. here’s how the parent organization announced the nationwide project this is part of, if anybody’s looking for further context:
    http://www.j-lab.org/about/press_releases/networked_journalism_project/
    .
    TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:19 pm August 26, 2009 #

  14. The WSB is a great example of community-driven journalism. As a former journalist myself (15 years) I applaud your effort at building a great model of collaborative journalism.

    However … doesn’t this partnership essentially give the corporate beancounters at the Times permission to continue slashing newsroom budgets? To continue decimating what was once a great newspaper?

    After all, why should the Times keep experienced, talented reporters on its payroll when it can just “partner” with the WSB for nothing?

    Comment by kfischer — 4:48 pm August 26, 2009 #

  15. Look how far you’ve come! We’re all impressed, but not surprised. You are the best.

    Congratulations!

    Comment by Linda — 5:10 pm August 26, 2009 #

  16. Kfischer, as somebody who’s been paying for (freelance) help from two journalists whose jobs were eliminated by local newspapers (Kathy Mulady and Jack Mayne), and hoping that future WSB revenue will enable full-time help creating jobs for more journalists, I certainly appreciate that concern.
    .
    I expect nothing to come out of this that will hurt anybody’s job – here at WSB or at the ST. For one, we are not providing them with anything. If they choose to link to a story we suggest – as they’ve been doing now and then for a couple months – that’s a link taking people off their site, which they won’t take lightly. They are NOT framing our coverage (which is done right now with no benefit to us by several scraper sites, because we choose to send out full-text RSS feeds). We haven’t even begun to discuss whether we might be able to share photos (something we have only done here at WSB if it’s a picture taken by Patrick or myself – if another organization/website has asked about using a photo that someone else took, even a “reader” sending in a pretty sunset, we direct the requester to that person to seek permission).
    .
    The stories that we and our counterparts in the neighborhood-news business are covering are stories that were not getting covered by local newspapers, TV and radio stations long before the current round of slashing started. I have been in news media in Seattle for going on 20 years now and very little of what I now cover and/or assign coverage for on behalf of WSB is redundant to what was ever done by those organizations. If anything, I am excited that some of the stories we cover might get even wider exposure, because many do have impacts beyond West Seattle (see the DOC cuts story from earlier today, for example, not reported anywhere else previously that I know of). Most of the citywide organizations check our site and counterparts daily and often pick up stories, but those are stories that caught their eye – in this case, if I see possibilities in “is this a wider problem? might a citywide organization be able to do investigating that I can’t, on behalf of the rest of the city?” I won’t just be making a cold call to an editor somewhere to say “hey, have you heard about …”.
    .
    We do show up at some stories that are also staffed by citywide media – City Council meetings, City Hall briefings, etc. – but we show up to cover the West Seattle angle. The Times, P-I, four TV stations are not there to cover that angle. I will not be covering the citywide angle on behalf of our new collaborator. If I happen to be at a story where there’s no other journalist (as happens even at some events of citywide import, such as the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee or Parks Board) and I catch wind of a citywide angle beyond what I’m writing for WSB, yup, I will likely flag the Times’ desk and say “hey, this isn’t in my story but you guys might be interested to know that (whatever).”
    .
    I frankly expect we will get more out of this than they will get from us. Just one example- they produce a HUMONGOUS amount of high-school sports coverage. While we staffed some big games ourselves last year (co-publisher Patrick was the only West Seattle journalist to follow WSHS’ playoff run, all the way up to that last game in Whatcom County, even), we don’t have the infrastructure for complete stats and scores. They do. I hope that will enhance the coverage we are planning. And if we drive traffic back to them, it gives THEM a benefit that enables THEM to keep selling ads and keep people employed.
    .
    It’s an experiment and who knows what will happen along the way – but it’s one that I think can be nothing more than win-win-win. As went the position I evangelized during so many panel discussions earlier this year – the critical issue has been not “saving newspapers” but “saving journalism.” If there are collaborations that can make strong organizations (which I believe both WSB and the Times to be) stronger, hooray.
    .
    But thanks for the questions. I really appreciate them … TR

    Comment by WSB — 5:14 pm August 26, 2009 #

  17. Grateful to hear the Times will not be coming around to the localized blogs to insert “most read” widgets etc! I/we all already know where their site is :)

    As for the others, I did not mean to come across as saying I do not like them. In fact, I am quite fond of a few of them as well (I have lived in many neighborhoods around town over time and they too are doing a great service to their respective ‘hoods). Just mean to say, imo, WSB has them all beat as things stand today.

    I will add, as a side note, I typically preferred the PI over the Times in print, but now that Hearst has taken the PI online only and pared down to a skeleton crew and loaded up with content (if you can call it that) from Redbook et al, I really have to say, I am glad to hear you are partnering with the Times (no offense to surviving PI staff intended…)

    Keep up the great work and thanks for your reply!

    Comment by 37Ray — 5:17 pm August 26, 2009 #

  18. Heard about this on NPR on my way home this afternoon. Kudos! :D

    Comment by hopey — 6:35 pm August 26, 2009 #

  19. This is great (and I agree with everyone who says the Times is the definite winner here.) To think…we knew WSB when :-) I have to admit, my first reaction was DISmay — fear of co-option, etc. Then I thought about what you-all have done to get this far and realized that no one is going to coopt “our” WSB.

    Comment by charlabob — 7:53 pm August 26, 2009 #

  20. This is very disappointing. WSB’s collaboration with anything associated with the Seattle Times can only diminish WSB’s integrity. The Seattle Times is a worthless rag that is owned by a hate-filled right wing cabal of a family. Unfortunately, I am much less likely to visit this website now that I know it is associated with the Seattle Times.

    Comment by Russell — 8:00 pm August 26, 2009 #

  21. Russell, sorry to hear that. It probably won’t change your mind but this is not a business association – this is a news collaboration experiment. The stipend we and the other partners are to receive for participating (a few hundred dollars a month for the yearlong experiment) is from the Knight Foundation and J-Lab, both nonprofits working on the future of journalism, not Times money – and even at that, it’s a stipend with no strings attached and we will be using it to continue paying for yet more added reporting, photography and technical improvements. It also involves news, not editorializing (the latter of which, we don’t engage in at all). The results, which will be compiled by Knight and J-Lab, from the five collaborative associations around the country (three back east and one in Arizona), will be studied in hopes it might provide “lessons learned” as the news business continues to evolve.
    .
    But no matter what, thank you very much for your candor and your past support, and I do hope you will reconsider someday.
    .
    TR

    Comment by WSB — 8:48 pm August 26, 2009 #

  22. There are a lot of people who do not like the Times, but, in print anyway it is the only “big” paper we have left. To refuse to support the Times in some form or another now would leave us with NO “major” paper at all. For this reason I support the Times now regardless of whatever rivalries exist/ed. As long as WSB independence is maintained I see nothing wrong with the experimental collaboration as described…

    Comment by 37Ray — 9:22 pm August 26, 2009 #

  23. Congrats on your amazing success! A 2-year-old operation partnering with a 110+ year-old paper is notable! I worked at The Times for four years and knew a lot of their excellent news staff and photographers. And through that experience I can say this could be a good partnership. I am happy to hear you can use their resources as I have been in their records library and used their back-issues computers and both are amazing sources of information. I do prefer WSB over The Times though. I can’t stand the comments at the bottom of the Times articles. Even though we have them here too, I find them to be a downer. As well I hope that WSB stays a bit rogue and independent in their reporting because it fits the energy of the community. The corporate aspect of The Times married with news reporting is what turns me off. Clearly you have made some great points regarding why you are trying this. Either way, congrats. What you have done so far is not easy to do and your work has been such a great community service to us all.

    Comment by shadow — 9:22 pm August 26, 2009 #

  24. Tracey and crew, many congratulations. I think this sounds great, much better that the experiment a certain TV station is doing in neighborhood online news blogs.

    Between the WSB and the Time I don’t think one is “better,” you’re different. WBS is hyperlocal and connects me to my neighbors and neighborhood in a little more folksy way. The Times has the resources to dig into city- and county-wide stories, still do occasional investigative journalism, and invest in columnists. At least so far.

    Not sure if you saw this great clip on Youtube from 1981 about how the newfangled internet thing poses no threat to newspapers. (Click my name for link)

    Comment by Tom — 9:32 pm August 26, 2009 #

  25. This is wonderful news…congratulations, Tracy and all the fine contributors here!

    Comment by Jose — 10:09 pm August 26, 2009 #

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